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The chemical industry in the Northern Territory is confined to a small scale chemical formulating activities.

Timor Sea Petroleum may build Australia's first world-scale methanol plant, with the first phase of the project involving construction of 1.72 mil m tpy methanol unit, with capacity rising to 3.45 mil m tpy under 2nd phase. (March 2000 announcement)

See also national chemical industry and trade performance.

Work is currently underway on a $1.5 billion LNG plant in Darwin, after the massive Bayu-Undan gas development in the Timor Sea recently cleared its final hurdle. It included a deal to supply 40 petajoules of gas annually to Alcan's proposed $1.5 billion expansion in the Northern Territory. The Northern Territory LNG use could thereby increase more than sixfold within the next two decades, lifting the NT's share of total Australia use from 2.3 per cent to almost seven per cent by 2020.


Methanol ventures


The Sunrise gas field contains 9.2 trillion cubic feet of gas and 320 million barrels of condensate. A A$1.5billion project to develop the gas field is being fast tracked by the federal government. The owners, Northern Australian Gas Venture (Woodside Petroleum and Shell) plan a A$5 billion venture for pipeline and syngas (for Canada's Methanex Corp). It requires a baseload of 200 terajoules of gas per day and would be located in Darwin. In February 2001 a letter of intent established to take 110 petajoules pa.

Methanex is exploring product and technology options including methanol, hydrogen, and GTL production. It also is looking for potential downstream customers that would use methanol to make ethylene and propylene and hydrogen to produce ammonia. A final decision on the project is not expected until 2002, with start up planned for 2005 (with export earnings of A$500million pa). In December 2001, the company has shifted its preferences to WA. The company cited frustration over delays over taxation arrangements between East Timor and Phillips Petroleum.

Methanol Australia

Timor Sea Petroleum (TSP) an Australian company has transferred its methanol feasibility studies and gas activities into a newly-established sub-subsidiary, Methanol Australia Pty Ltd. TSP is the parent of Natural Gas Australia Pty Ltd, which owns and operates Methanol Australia.

Two studies.

The required gas would be supplied from the Evans Shoal in the Timor Sea some 300 km north of Darwin that contains 6.6tcf with Shell as 50 per cent operator, Santos 40 per cent and Osaka Gas 10 per cent.

Study 1. 

The feasibility studies would use the Kvaerner Process. Phase I of the proposed facility to cost A$1.5 billion would have a methanol capacity of 1.73m tonne/year. The plant design will incorporate a second phase, in which output can be expanded to 3.45m tonne/year. Methanol Australia is seeking alliances in Australasia to actively promote fuel cell technology linked to methanol or natural gas, and commercial opportunities in gas conversions and synthetic fuels. (Note small methanol project in Victoria).

The venturers are seeking clarification on CO2 emission policy as the project will emit 2 million tonnes per year. They are seeking government funding equivalent of 15 per cent of the value of the project (30 per cent was offered to Comalco for alumina production in Queensland).

Study 2.

In August 2001, Methanol Australia proposed two gas production plants on the Tassie Shoal as a floating platform supplied by the Evans Shoal Gas to produce 3.45 million tonnes of methanol in two phase development from an investment of US$1bn. The Darwin government is philosophically opposed to the project given limited capacity of the Northern Territory to be involved in construction.

Details provided by Methanol Australia to the Australian Securities Exchange.

Two of the world's largest gas reforming and methanol production plants are proposed for Australian territorial waters in the Timor Sea at an estimated cost of A$2.4 billion.

The first plant could be commissioned in late 2006 and produce methanol at the commencement of 2007 with the second plant installed approximately four years later.

It is proposed that the plants would be located on the Tassie Shoal a few kilometres south of the Evans Shoal gasfield, which is 275 kilometres north of Darwin.

Methanol Australia Limited, an Australian listed public company in which Santos Limited has a 16.9 per cent equity, is the proponent and operator of the project.

Current indicative estimates of recoverable gas from the Evans Shoal gasfield range from 7 to 15 trillion cubic feet. The Tassie Shoal methanol project requires approximately 2.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas for the first 20 years of operation.

The Managing Director of Methanol Australia, Mr Chris Hart, said that the project was both technically and commercially viable and currently held adequate take-off arrangements for this stage of the project's development.

When both stages of the development are operational, it is planned that the plants would produce 3.5 million tones of methanol each year to be exported throughout Asia and North America.

When fully developed, export revenues are forecast to be in excess of A$750 million a year.


Construction of the world's largest offshore gas reforming and methanol production plants will involve major engineering firms located in several countries, including Kvaerner and Ove Arup.

Each plant will have a production capacity of 5,000 tonnes of methanol per day or 1.75 million tonnes per annum.

The construction process involves laying natural gas pipelines from the Evans Shoal gasfield subsea production wellheads to the shallow water at Tassie Shoal some 12 kilometres to the south. The methanol production, storage facilities and utility equipment would be built on concrete gravity structures (CGS).

It is proposed to build the CGS and install the methanol production plant in Southeast Asia. The completed facility would then be towed and installed on Tassie Shoal, the CGS acting like an artificial island.

Much of the ancillary equipment such as cranage, accommodation modules, jetty superstructures and subsea pipeline equipment could be sourced from Darwin or Australian-based companies. These contracts will be worth between A$50 to $100 million for each of the two phases.

The CGS will measure 165 metres by 85 metres at the base, 176 metres by 97 metres at the deck and require approximately 66,000 cubic metres of reinforced, pre-stressed concrete to construct. It is expected to weigh 174,000 tonnes.

The internal structure of the CGS would be made up of 72 separate cells, 40 of which are designed for product storage, with the remaining 32 outer cells to be used for ballast.

It is also proposed that a separate accommodation platform, connected by a bridge link, would be located adjacent to the processing plant. This facility has been designed to allow an additional expansion to service the second CGS in 2010.

The final component of the project involves the construction of a short jetty for an open sea load-out.

In May 2003, a decision was made to proceed with front-end engineering and design

Oil and gas reserves

 See also details for
bullet Western Australia and
bullet Queensland.

nt_gas.jpg (19785 bytes)

Click on image to see full size.

The Territory produces about 90 000 barrels of oil per day (4.2 million tonnes per year) from offshore wells in the Timor Sea.

Estimates of gas reserves are 2 400 petajoules onshore, and 8 000 petajoules offshore. Darwin is supplied by pipeline using gas from the Amadeus Basin for power generation (at one-third pipeline capacity, with reserves of 800 years at current demand). Substantial petrochemical feedstock could be available with development of offshore gas fields to supply LNG gas for export.

In May 1997 Northern Australia Gas Ventures (Woodside 50% and Shell 50% - effectively 66% Shell given Shell's interest in Woodside) announced plans to build two LNG trains with a combined capacity of 7.5 million tonnes. It would cost A$10 million The gas source (Sunset, near Sunrise Troubadour fields) is 500 km north of Darwin (capital) and near the Indonesian boundary and estimated to contain at least five (possibly ten) trillion cubic feet of gas. It will require a 490 km pipeline (costing some $8 million per kilometre) operating in 160 metres of water and would come ashore in Shoal Bay near Darwin. It would produce 25 000 barrels of of condensate per day stored in floating storage and off-loading vessel for transfer to tankers.

Other gas users would be Northern Territory Power and Water Authority that would assume 30 petajoules (replacing Cooper Basin needs by 2012) with prospects for Nabalco alumina project with 20 petajoules pa. If it goes ahead, it may affect the proposed development of the huge Gorgon shelf gas reserves in Western Australia.

In June 1998, the North Australian Gas Venture (NAGV) partners plan to bring Timor Sea gas ashore at Darwin and build a pipeline to carry gas to the Queensland market. Chevron plans to bring gas from the Kutubu fields in PNG to Queensland (the government found potential for 360 petajoules (conversions) by 2013. NAGV envisaged a 100 to 300 Pj domestic gas plant followed by a 7.5 million tonne pa LNG plant with a total potential cost of A$13 billion. Darwin's Glyde Point (60 km from Darwin) was selected. The NT Minister naturally criticised the federal government offer (A$250m) for the Comalco alumina project as undermining the prospects for this venture.

In August 2001, Shell announced it had reservations about the Phillips Petroleum Bayu Undan project and proposed a floating installation on the Sunrise reservoir. The cost would be 40 per cent lower according to Shell by avoiding gas pipelines. It would delay supply of gas to eastern states of Australia (unless the PNG line is confirmed).


Another project is Bayu/Undan (BHP and Woodside) closer to Darwin (3.4 TCF). It is a A$2.3 billion project 50.29 per cent owned by Phillips - other partners being Santos, Inpex, Oryx-Kerr McGee and British Borneo. They plan to export LNG by 2004 and produce 110 000 barrels per day of condensate and LPG. The field contains 370 million barrels of condensate and LPG. The venturers aim to produce 3.4 trillion cubic feet of gas. They 50 000 barrels per day liquids development (cost US$1.4bn) as precursor to wet gas and LNG operation. In July 2001, the 550 km, 36 inch pipeline was put on hold though US$400million had already been spent on the liquids stripping plant.

Other fields in area are....
bulletPetrel/Tern (1.2TCF)
bulletGreater Sunrise (10TCF)
bulletEvans Shoal (6.6TCF)


Government agencies and organisations (by structure)


Click on name of State or region for details. Under development.
Map of Australia showing described regions
Regions of the Northern Territory on map
Other information about the Northern Territory

Chemlink Pty Ltd ACN 007 034 022. Publications 1997. All contents Copyright © 1997. All rights reserved. Information in this document is subject to change without notice. Products and companies referred to are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies or mark holders. URL:

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